Our first time though Bangkok, our friend Aaron told us he’d found it had charm. We were in the midst of our first few days in South East Asia and thought he was crazy. Two months later and slightly more seasoned (both in travel experiences and with chili peppers) we returned to Bangkok and came to agree. So much so that we spent almost two weeks home based here.
We spent the first week with a to-do list. Shopping to be done, visas to be applied for, and dresses to be custom tailored for my sister’s wedding this summer! In running through the list, we explored more of Bangkok’s neighborhoods from the touristed Khao San Road to Chinatown, the Ex-Pat areas, the Thai silk markets, and no less than ten different transportation options. Plus our own two feet, which have been getting us everywhere! In amongst all that walking, we did a fair amount of relaxing in parks and cafes, people watching and admiring architecture and atmosphere.
My favorite – Lumpini Park, right at the end of Aaron’s block. An enormous park with evening aerobics classes on the greens. One night, we stumbled upon a classical orchestra concert of famous cinema scores and hung out all evening listening to locals shout out answers to movie trivia between Mancini numbers.
J’s favorite? The local canal boat – a longboat set up like a subway car that ferries people up and down Bangkok’s canal system for 10B. It comes complete with tarps rigged as splash guards for pulling up when passing other boats (absoluteley necessary) and a collapsible roof for when going under bridges when the water is to high – so that all the people standing under holding onto the ropes strung along the ceiling just crouch down for a minute until the ceiling can be pushed upright again. The boat pulls up to a pier and people leap on and off, clambering across the gap, over the tire bumpers, and down into the boat while everyone else sort of shifts weight so that it doesn’t tip over.
Next, we decided to take a trip east with a 4-day bicycle trek around Kanchanaburi. We loaded up our tent and a change of clothes and off we went! Our steeds were gerry-rigged with paniers made of stuff-sacks and miscellaneous bits of strapping hanging off in all directions, we took a few wrong turns, got laughed at by every passing local, and pulled over on the side of the road a few times swearing we couldn’t go on, but we logged over 200km and had a fantastic time.
Day 1: Woke up at 5a to bike 15 km across Bangkok in early morning traffic. J had borrowed Patty’s really nice road bike, but wasn’t sure how to use it and got stuck in the highest gear and it took her 12 km to figure out how to decrease. Then a screw fell out of my rear rack and I had to rig it in place with a piece of plastic strapping I found on the side of the road. And that’s just the beginning. It was followed by a 3hr train ride to Kanchanaburi, followed by 70km to Erawan National Park.
Day 2: After our ridiculous day yesterday, we swear off biking and instead hike around the national park. J at Erawan Waterfall – a 7 tiered falls with countless perfect blue pools underneath low falls and cool rock formations. In one, we discovered the fish most famed for eating dead skin off of people’s feet at spas. So we sat with our feet in the pool for awhile, and let me tell you, it tickles!! Free spa day!
Day 3: Day trip to Phratat Cave, a mere 8 km away. Except it’s a really steep hill. And 3 km later, it’s still a really steep hill, and we pass a sign that says Phratat Cave is still another 12 km away. Then we pass another, and another, all saying 12 km. And so go the first 6km. But we do it, and emerge onto the top of a picturesque hill with spectacular views of banana and papaya groves and out over the reservoir and all the burning-season smog. The route continues and is still uphill, but now only at a 6% grade, so, y’know, cakewalk. We get chased by a few stray dogs and a few angry-looking water buffalo, but make it to the cave – only to find it’s up a half-km flight of the hugest, steepest stairs I’ve ever seen. We continued from sheer willpower alone, singing mantras to ourselves to drown out the screaming of our quads, and finally ascended to the opening of the coolest cave I’ve ever seen.
We crawled through a small fissure which opened into a huge cavernous room with coral-like undersea rock formations positively dripping everywhere. We wandered slowly through, strolled around the pleasant countryside, then cruised home at breakneck speeds with a stop for a dip in a waterfall pool before back to camp. A spectacular day.
Day 4: The reverse of day 1. Just as beautiful, just as fun of a train ride, just as long and tiring of a day. We arrived back at Aaron’s a sweaty, dirty mess and did some quick recovery work because. . .
Day 5 was a Saturday, and we woke up bright and early again to join Aaron and some buddies rock climbing at Petchaburi, a short drive south of BKK! And boy, it was a fun day. We may have been exhausted and sore, but a couple of Aaron’s buddies were leading 6b’s and c’s and I had a great time playing around on some really hard climbs with the security of a top rope.
We had a fantastic time with Aaron – he has just started a company called Beervana, importing and distributing craft beer to an incredibly primed and ready market in Bangkok, and has already been really successful. Being in the beer network, we met some great people and he was an incredible host. We’ve now taken off south down the Thai peninsula and I write to you from Koh Tao, a small island on the gulf side where we’ll be meeting up with J’s little brother Alex!
A great trip.
Lots of love,
C and J